Our weekly round-up features two stories on the link between placemaking and well-being, plans for bus location data and an all-too-familiar story about citizen disenfranchisement

Oslo saw zero pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019. Here's how the city did it.

Whilst this seems like to me like a strange way to announce that a city's move towards active travel has been a success, the headline is oddly striking. The strategy for making the city centre safer seems to be sensible and fairly straightforward: reduce speed limits, increase parking charges and hand over more of the high way to cyclists. Lets hope that this is a model that other cities can follow, but it must be done in close conversation with all highway users, to make sure such bold moves don't create conflict and some form of backlash.

Upside: citizens want to be involved in policymaking

This article follows on nicely from work carried out last year by Grosvenor, looking at how much influence people feel that they have over decision-making in their community. As I would have predicted, the majority want to influence but the majority also think they aren't able to. In many cases, the democratic levers are there to have an influence, but people don't feel they work, so the vocal minority is the people that we hear from and influence decisions. To address the issue, we need to make those democratic levers easier to use and more transparent, so people can see the change that they are making first hand.

The facts about architecture and climate change

This is a great article, packed with some interesting statistics relating to energy, buildings and their relationship with climate change. There has been a big focus on climate change in the architectural profession in the last year, and I've certainly noticed a lot of social media chatter about how the RIBA and professional bodies can do more to promote the energy sustainability of new buildings. But I'd like to see a renewed focus on making sure the conversation on energy and carbon takes account of where we build, not just how we build, and how we reduce the necessity for travel of all kinds, by building more homes closer to where we work, shop and play and, if not, building them closer to public transport hubs.

Gov't Ramps Up National Bus Location Data Plans

Real-time bus tracking seems like an eminently good idea, but I wonder why it hasn't happened before now. It is just one example of technology building trust in a public service and helping people make better and more informed decisions i.e. 'When should I leave the house for my bus?' and 'Are there any issues affecting the buses today?'. Hopefully similar technology will come into place for other forms of public transport, like trains, to ensure that arrival information is always up-to-date.

Bad urban design is making us miserable

This is an interesting article on the effects of poor urban design and placemaking on mental health. It suggests that factors like noise, air pollution and lack of access to green space can have a significant effect on mental health. This seems like common sense and is not surprising, but we rarely seem to make the connection between poor urban design and strain on health services, so perhaps its about time we started talking about them in the same conversation to elevate the placemaking agenda?

Urban Design Tool Streetmix Assists Users in Designing Hypothetical Streets

It's nice to see an interactive tool developed to help understand the trade-off between different transport modes and landscaping in city streets. But it would be great if it could be developed one step further to understand how reducing or increasing the capacity for cyclists, motorists or pedestrians on one street affects the wider network in terms of congestion, noise and pollution.

Written by Paul Erskine-Fox - Founder, Participatr

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